Monthly Archives: June 2020

My husband’s grandmother, Nettie Knox liked the unique things that made up her life. She was six months older than Grandpa Robert Knox, and she liked that. When her birthday came around, she would tease him that she was now older and wiser than he was. It was a bit unusual for the wife to be older than the husband in those days. In fact, more common was for the husband to be a number of years older than the wife, sometimes as much as twenty years older, so for Grandma to be the older, was quirky, but she relished the idea. It was a part of her uniqueness.

The birth of Grandma’s first great grandchild, my daughter, Corrie Petersen, was one of the most exciting events to happen in her life. She was beyond excited. She told me immediately when she walked into my hospital room to meet her great granddaughter. They both loved the special connection they shared. Birthdays were celebrated together, along with pictures for each year…a treasured remembrance of the bond they shared. It was something that Grandma knew was unusual, even when the third great grandchild was born of her husband’s birthday. They both now had an unusual treasure, and that made it even greater. It was a beautiful and unique gift to each of them.

Grandma never wanted to just like everyone else. I think she liked feeling like she was one of a kind, and that she definitely was. It wasn’t that she tried to be a rebel or a spectacle, but just that she always showed everyone love and kindness. I think she passed that to Corrie and the rest of the family too. Grandma loved being a mom, grandma, and great grandma. She felt like it made her life complete. I remember always thinking, when Grandma Knox came to my mind, that she was really just so sweet. She hated conflict which reminds me of my youngest daughter, Amy Royce. Grandma wanted everything in her world to be peaceful and happy, and that’s a good way to be. Today would have been Grandma’s 112th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Knox. We love and miss you very much.

My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is one of the hardest working people I know. She works full time as a CNA at Wyoming Medical Center, while going to nursing school. The hours are long, in both of her ventures. She works nights on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday on the surgical floor of the hospital. The life of a CNA is always a busy one. Anyone who has been in the hospital can tell you that they run to call lights, help patients with all their personal needs, help patients with their mobility exercises, help in taking vitals, and so much more. It all adds up to twelve hours on your feet, with a small window of time to sit while charting and such. When she isn’t working or catching a few winks of sleep, Corrie’s time is spent studying, at least during the school year. She studies or goes to class or clinicals many hours a week. It’s really like having two full-time jobs.

Of course, Corrie is all about her family too. She is a wife to Kevin, mom to sons, Chris (and his fiancée) and Josh, and grandma to her little granddaughter. She is also a fur mommy to dogs, Dottie, Izzy, Bella, and to their cat, Zoe. Now the dogs love Corrie but she doesn’t have much time to play, so they really hang with Kevin more. Zoe, on the other hand, wants Corrie’s attention whenever she sits down. Zoe doesn’t understand studying, and whenever Corrie isn’t spending enough time to suit Zoe, she just decides to sit in the middle of Corrie’s book or computer, as if to say, “It’s my turn!! Pay attention to me!!” Corrie tells me that Zoe is her study partner, but I don’t think they were getting much studying done.

Corrie’s life is so busy, and sometimes I don’t know how she manages. She truly gets up in the morning, and runs all day and into the late night, then falls into bed and tries to unwind and sleep. It’s hard to unwind for Corrie, sometimes, because her mind is busy planning out the next day. Still, once in a while, Corrie finds a little bit of time to rest. She told me that she always takes her breaks at work, because she knows she needs that little bit of downtime to properly care for her patients, and I totally agree. A healthcare worker has to take care of themselves too, because if they get sick or exhausted, they are no help to their patients either. Corrie’s work life is all about the people she takes care of. When she went into this field, we talked about the fact that a CNA is often the person the patient sees the most, and so is the one who can effectively change the course of their patients day. A smile, a kind word, and a gentle touch can take a day filed with pain and upset, and change it to a day that is filled with sunshine. That is the ultimate goal for Corrie…bringing the sunshine. Today is Corrie’s birthday. Happy birthday Corrie…you passed your sister again!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

High up in the Big Horn Mountains, about 23 miles from Buffalo, Wyoming, rest the remains of a B-17F-55-DL Flying Fortress, serial number 42-3399, nicknamed “Scharazad.” The highest peak in the Big Horn Range is Cloud Peak, at an elevation of 12,840 feet. After the crash of the bomber, the next peak over, the one on which the bomber rests was renamed Bomber Mountain. The plane is still there today, but the bodies of the crew, William R Ronaghan (pilot), Anthony J Tilotta (co-pilot), Leonard H Phillips (navigator), Charles H Suppes (bombardier), James A Hinds (aircraft engineer), Ferguson T Bell Jr (radio operator), Lee ‘Vaughn’ Miller (assistant aircraft engineer), Charles E Newburn Jr (assistant radio operator), Jake F Penick (aircraft gunner), Lewis M Shepard (assistant aircraft gunner), were recovered from the crash site and given a proper burial.

On June 28, 1943, the B-17F “Scharazad” left Pendleton, Oregon to join a bomber group headed to Europe during World War II. Around midnight, Captain Ronaghan radioed that their position was near Powder River, Wyoming. That was the last transmission, and they were never heard from again. The Army launched multiple search campaigns to find the missing plane among the mountains, but modern search aids like GPS were not available until the 1960s, and planes can be difficult to find in mountainous terrain anyway, due to trees and grasses blending with the green tones of the plane.

It would take two long years for the families of these fallen men to have closure, and it came by chance, really. On August 12, 1945, two cowboys spotted the shiny aluminum from the wreckage and discovered all ten crew members deceased. For two years the paint color had allowed the plane to be hidden on the mountain, but as time, and the elements, went on, the paint wore off, and the shining aluminum allowed the plane to be located. The mountain was named “Bomber Mountain” in their memory. I can’t imagine the pain of loss the families of the crew must have felt knowing that their loved one had died, but to have no real idea what happened for two long years…must have been very hard to bear. Knowing where it all happened, while not removing the pain, at least brings peace.

Our Uncle Butch Hein is a rancher in Forsyth, Montana. He has been raising cattle there for most of his life. Butch is the youngest on my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s siblings. Butch was the only one of the kids that was really ever interested in carrying on the work of his dad. Now, Butch is continuing the tradition of the family business in his son, Scott. The two of them run the ranch together and they are very successful. It feels good for a man to watch the business he has built, grow into something he can share with his son. A man’s life’s work should go forward to his kids, if at all possible.

Butch has just the one son, Scott, but Scott and his wife, Terri have blessed him with three grandchildren; Laura, who just completed college with a teaching degree; Carson, who graduated from high school a year ago, and is going straight into ranching; and Lindsey, who will soon be attending Montana State University. The grandkids have all been such a blessing to Butch. Since Butches wife and Scott’s mom, Bonnie, died when Scott was very young, it is so good for Butch to have his son’s family close by.

Butch stays active, but these days, I’m sure Scott carries more of the load. Butch has had several surgeries on his back, because the life of a rancher isn’t an easy one. It takes a toll on the body. Still, Butch doesn’t look his 75 years at all. Many people would hope that they could look as good when they are 75. Butch is well liked around Forsyth, Montana where he lives, and has rancher friends who help with things that Butch and Scott need. Things like moving cattle from one range to another require a number of people to help, so friends are essential. I’m glad Butch has a good network of people to help him out and to fill his life with love. Today is Butch’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand nephew, Topher Spicer just finished his first year of high school…strange as it might have been. Never before has there been such an unusual ending to a school year, and all because of the Covid-19 virus. We experienced the never-ending spring break, home schooling in families that didn’t intend to home school, and online classes for all grades. Some kids did well, while others struggled with this new reality education. Topher did well. He likes school and learning, and finished his first year of high school with all A’s and B’s. It was something to be proud of.

Topher also had an interesting year, in that he got a job…his first job. Most kids tend to go into retail or fast food for their first job, but Topher managed to land a really interesting job. It has me very impressed. He is working as a tour guide for The Wyoming Frontier Prison. The prison opened in 1901 and could accommodate 104 prisoners. At that time there was no running water, electricity, and very inadequate heating. The 104 cells were in what is now Cell Block A. An addition completed in 1904 added 32 cells. A second addition, adding Cell Block B in 1950, helped alleviate overcrowding. Cell Block C was added in 1966, with 30 cells for the most serious cases. The prison closed in 1987 and became a historic site in 1988…setting the stage for Topher’s first job. Topher, being the innovative guy he is, loves his job, and enjoys making people laugh at the witty things he has come up with for some of the historical information. Many people find history boring, but Topher helps them understand how things were in a very different era, and makes it interesting while he’s at it…now that’s something to be proud of.

Topher is comfortable in his own company. He is an only child, and always finds ways to occupy his mind. He and his mom, my niece, Andrea Spicer, are good friends, and even into his teenage years, they get along very well. Topher is her right-hand man, helping her with things she needs and doing it without complaint…ok, not too much anyway. Topher plans to spend high school building up his art and theatre credits, and then he is considering going to the University of Wyoming, or possibly to South Dakota. I know that whatever Topher decides to do, he will excel at it and continue to make his family proud. Today is Topher’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In a time when so much in our world is chaotic and serious, today seems like a good time to explore the lighter side of life. We have all seen the different feats performed for the Guinness Book of World Records. There are many people who attempt and fail to break the world record, and that is sad, because they have worked so hard to set it up, and it would probably take a long time to set it up again. Still, if a world record was easy to obtain, it wouldn’t really be so special.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, and long before the August 27, 1955 first publication of the Guinness Book of World Records, a local baker named Sylvain Dornon decided that he was going to make his mark on history. He decided that he was going to a bygone Landaise tradition of walking on stilts. Dornon was a baker in Arcachon, and I’m not sure what made him decide to take on such a feat, when he already had a decent business that needed his attention. Nevertheless, Dornon, who was born in 1858 in Salles, to the east of Arcachon and at the northern tip of the Landes, was fascinated with stilts. Normally, the use of stilts, or “échasses” as they were called, were primarily used by shepherds, because they were an easy way of maneuvering through marshy land and as a means of extending their field of vision when watching over their flock of sheep. Messengers and postmen, keen on time-saving and maintaining a steady step used stilts too, but as the wetlands became drier, the use of stilts began to die out. Dornon hated to see that period end, and decided to do something about it.

In the beginning of his quest, Dornon organized demonstrations and performances. In true street entertainment style, spectators were invited to make generous donations at the end of the show. The concept proved successful, but Dornon felt he and his stilts deserved greater exposure. So, he kicked things into high gear, in September of 1889, he travelled to Paris for the Exposition Universelle, and there, he walked up the steps to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. The stunt made Dornon almost a household word, for a while.

Dornon was inspired by the publicity he received, and by the tales of eccentric Russians travelling on foot from the western frontier of their country to France. He set himself a goal to stilt-walk all the way from Paris to Moscow, planning his arrival to coincide with a Franco-Russian exhibition being held there in May 1891. The trip would not be a free way to travel, so he set about securing financial backing from the magazine L’Illustration, began making two new pairs of stilts: one set measured 44 inches long and weighed about 7 pounds. The second, longer pair was 70 inches long, and was sent to Moscow, along with trunks of clothes.

Dornon was dressed in full Landais shepherd clothing…including goat-skin coat and beret, carrying a bag containing maps, a few spare clothes and a loaded gun…for safety. He was dressed in the authentic attire for the period he was portraying. Dornon set out from Place de la Concorde in Paris on March 12th 1891, surrounded by a 2,000-strong crowd of enthusiastic supporters! He walked an average of 37 miles a day, which I find amazing, considering that I walk an average of 15 miles a day, and I think that is an accomplishment. Even harsh weather conditions and poor road surfaces, didn’t slow him down. Dornon cruised through Reims, Sedan, Luxembourg, Koblenz, Berlin, Wilna and on to Moscow. He was joined periodically by walkers and cyclists for stretches of the route. Progress was also sometimes hindered by uncooperative policemen or children who would throw stones at him, not to mention downright hostile observers, notably in Germany where the sight of a Frenchman on stilts did not systematically prove popular. There always has to be someone to ruin things. Still, Dornon never failed to find a local who had heard of his venture or a hotel bed to sleep in.

After 58 days and 1786 miles, Dornon arrived in Moscow preceded by a police cortege. He was hailed by a crowd chanting “Vive la France!” and treated to a champagne reception, although the staff at the French exhibition weren’t too impressed. Dornon wasn’t allowed to stilt-walk at the event and wasn’t even given a courtesy ticket…nice, he had to pay to get into his own reception. When the festivities were over, he boarded a train for the much-shorter trip home, where he went back to his job as a baker.

He still liked to take part in races and dance performances throughout the region up until his death in 1900 aged just 42. Dornon did leave a legacy…that of reviving a Landaise tradition which had already died out, and the concept he developed lives on to this day, with many échassier folk dance troupes continuing to entertain the masses.

On June 26, 2003, a Green Beret was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. That may not seem like such an unusual event, but in reality, it was very unusual. Lauri Allan Torni, aka Larry Thorne, was born in Viipuri, Finland on May 28, 1919. When he grew up, he entered the Finnish military service in 1938. He participated in the war between Finland and the USSR, proving himself in battle, and earning the rank of captain. It would appear that Torni would quite likely have a long and distinguished career in the military service.

All that changed when Finland allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1941. In 1943, Torni put together a unit that was informally called Detachment Torni. This was an infantry unit that penetrated deep behind enemy lines, and they quickly made a reputation for themselves on both sides of the front for its combat effectiveness. For his part, Torni, for his Finnish military service was awarded 8 medals, to include the Mannerheim Cross, for action on July 9, 1944.

When his unit was demobilized, Torni joined a German SS unit in East Prussia and continued to fight the Russians, who at that time were the known enemy. During his time in the German SS, Torni was captured by the British, escaped a POW camp, and returned to Finland, where he was arrested for his German army service. I’m sure that at this point he wondered what was going on. I would think he realized the the German SS was his whole problem, but like many, he was fooled by Hitler and the Nazi party. After being pardoned in 1948, Torni secretly traveled to Sweden, masqueraded as a Swedish seaman, and sailed to the vicinity of Mobile, Alabama, where he jumped overboard and made it to land. As most people know, getting to land was an opportunity to seek asylum, which Torni did. He was granted residency in 1953 and because he wanted to be loyal to his new country, Torni, now going by Larry Thorne joined the Army. Again, he proved himself in battle, and eventually became a Green Beret assigned to Special Forces. Torni, now Thorne was an incredible soldier, and very loyal to his nation and his fellow soldiers. He served in various high profile capacities around the world in his time of service as a Green Beret.

In 1963 when he was 44 years old, Thorne was deployed to Vietnam as an advisor, but two years later Torni’s remarkable career came to an end when his helicopter crashed during a secret mission. It was a tragic end to a short lived, be remarkable career. His remains were not located until 1999. Finally, on June 26, 2003, a multi-national hero and in the end, a celebrated Green Beret was laid to rest. He was an amazing soldier.

My grandson, Caalab Royce is a hard worker, who is also very loyal. He stayed at a job he had at Red Robin in Bellingham, Washington, much longer than he really wanted to, but every time he considered quitting, they gave him a raise. So, he stayed and he did a good job for them. Nevertheless, eventually that was not going to be enough, so when he was offered a job as an apprentice in the HVAC industry, he told Red Robin goodbye. I know they were very sad to see him go, as he had been their best worker, but they could see the value in what he was going to do, and they wished him well.

Caalab loves his new job, and who can blame him, really. Yes, the work is hard, but they spend a lot of time on the islands around the Pacific Northwest, and since ferry rides to work are a rather slow-go, the crew usually flies to the job once the trucks are there. Many jobs take several days, so the first day, the trucks and equipment are taken to the site, and after that, the crew flies in each day, over the beautiful island views. So…how’s your commute? I know Caalab’s commute is a lot of fun, and I wish I could ride along just once. Caalab has sent me videos of his commute, and it is just beautiful. He spends a lot of time at Friday Harbor, which is one of my favorite places among the islands there. Of course, I go as a tourist, and have time to spend doing what I like, including whale watching, but he goes to work, so it is different, but he has sent pictures of the amazing views too, so it doesn’t seem like he has it too tough.

Caalab has always had a way with animals, including wild animals. Once at my house, a squirrel climbed up his pant leg and continued toward his shoulder…until Caalab’s face appeared, and the squirrel realized what he was doing. He ran away very quickly then. Recently, when the crew arrived at the job site, the men saw a bird with a string wrapped around it’s wing. The bird was in real trouble. The guys caught the bird and removed the string. Afterward, the bird wasn’t in a real hurry to leave, and it sat on Caalab’s hand for about 5 minutes, until Caalab tossed it into the air and it flew away. It was as if the bird wanted to stay for just a few minutes to say, “Thank you, for saving my life.” It was a really special moment for Caalab, who said it was “straight out of a movie.”

Of course, Caalab isn’t all about his job either. These days, he is “all about Chloe!!” Chloe Foster is the love of his life, and such a sweet girl that everyone can see why he loves her. Everybody has that one person who is just perfect for them, and Chloe is Caalab’s “just perfect” one. He will be the first to tell you that she “completes him” and anyone who knows them can clearly see that it’s true. It seems to me that Caalab flies to work, and floats home. It’s a great commute, wouldn’t you agree? Today is Caalab’s birthday. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I sometimes think that I am from a different era…one where people didn’t use so many obscenities. In reality, I am from that era, because on June 24, 1957, when I was just a 14 months old, the United States Supreme Court ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees free speech and freedom of the press. Call me old fashioned, but when I hear someone screaming at their own child, using every obscenity known to man, it makes me cringe. Calling our children such horrible names, can’t possibly be a good way to teach them self esteem. The United States Supreme Court agreed, according to Roth v. United States, a case decided in 1957. Samuel Roth of New York City was convicted of mailing obscene materials. On appeal his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court, which held that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court ruled that “material is obscene if, to the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant overall theme appeals to prurient interest.”

These days, we are bombarded with obscenities and profanities…everything from the f-bomb to the names we call people we don’t particularly like. Television shows use obscenities on just about every show, and our children are growing up to think that not only is it ok to call people such names, but its ok to be constantly angry…and to let everyone around you know it. It seems to me that as all the obscenities became commonplace, so did anger. And anger breeds hate, which in turn breeds things like road rage, bullying, and even murder.

Now, that we have the freedom to say the things that we do, another problem has come to light…hate speech. What is hate speech? It never used to be a thing, although it did exist…it just didn’t have a name, per se. So we have somehow come full circle, to a degree. While the Supreme Court used to say that we can’t use obscenities or profanities, and then suddenly we could, now we find ourselves with the necessity to decide if something said is “hate speech” or not, and if it is, then has the right to free speech been denied. Why is one thing different than the other? Believe me, I don’t like either kind of talk…hate or obscene, but if one is “illegal” then shouldn’t the other also be “illegal.” Or, should we have any say at all? It is a vicious circle to be sure. I guess that in reality, it is a moral issue. We have slipped so far from the moral values of our ancestors that our world almost doesn’t even resemble that of the era I was raised in, and certainly bears no resemblance to the era of our ancestors. While I can’t say exactly how to solve this dilemma, I think that maybe the best solution lies within each of us. Maybe we need to walk away from the situations that make us angry. Maybe we need to be more careful of the speech and behaviors that we show to our children. Maybe we need to teach our children that other people have a right to their opinion too, and it is not up to us to be their verbal police. Maybe we need to take offense less, and show compassion more. No matter what the ultimate solution is, there is no doubt in my mind that it begins in the human heart.

New babies are always so much fun for a family to receive. They bring so much joy to the family. Recently, our family was blessed with a new addition when my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak and her partner, Dylan Herr had an adorable baby boy named Max Robert Herr. Max was born on June 14, 2020, at 5:41pm after a 17 hour labor that ended in a rather dangerous and terrifying delivery proceeded by 3½ hours of pushing. During the delivery, Katy spiked a high temperature, and little Max’s heart rate slowed, but the Lord took care of them, and they came through with flying colors. We are very thankful for the happy ending of that labor that brought them their sweet Max, who weighed in at 8 pounds 14 0.ounces, and was 21¼ inches long.

While Max made a dramatic entrance into the world, his life since then has been much more relaxed. He is a sweet, easy going baby, who is very mellow and loves to be held…preferably all the time. Right now, he loves to sleep…so much so, that his parents have to wake him up to eat most of the time. Max loves his daddy very much, but at this point, he is a mama’s boy who calms right down when Katy picks him up. He loves his mommy’s voice, and their bond is one that comes from spending nine months connecting to each other. Such a sweet bond, between mother and son.

Max is been receiving visitors from time to time. Dylan’s parents, brother, and sister-in-law have come by to meet him and get a few cuddles. And Katy’s mom is visiting right now, and Katy says she is the “Baby Whisperer.” Grandma’s do have a knack when it comes to their grandbabies. Most of Katy’s family live in Casper Wyoming, so many of us have not had a chance to meet little Max yet, but we are all looking forward to meeting him very soon. They are planning a visit to Casper over the 4th of July. In the meantime, we are very much enjoying all the pictures that Katy and Dylan are sharing with us. Max, for his part, is taking everything in stride. He had decided that he is a happy, social baby, dazzling his visitors with cuddles and smiles, and everyone loves it. Welcome to the world Max Robert Herr!! We love you already!!

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